Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Silent Night Broken By Song

Rarely do the holidays evoke anything more than commercial harassment, accentuated by the grumpy red eyed shoppers, who in the spirit of giving, trample each other to get that last hideous holiday sweater for the family dog.

This year, I wanted to see the other side. The side of people that made me not despise the whole of the human race. Oddly enough, one of the activities was sent to me via e-mail from my local events committee. Apparently, there would be caroling at the "Bean" (aka Cloud Gate, which sounds like a sequel to Watergate, but I digress...).

On the last Friday performance, I bundled up and headed out of my office, happy to leave off the long hours of staring at a computer to see how the rest of the world was spending this holiday season.

Upon arriving, I was shocked. A crowd had already formed, smiling and cheerful, and oddly polite. There were patient lines for free hot cider, the coffee and hot cocoa having already been chosen and consumed by those who arrived earlier. Another group of volunteers handed out song books and cupped candles.

People waited their turn, said please and thank you- all of this out of the ordinary for the holidays.

Once the choir began, a hush spread across the expectant crowd.- without the requisite pushing to get into a better position. The crowd listened to instruction and obediently turned to the various pages to sing along with the Wicker Park Choir. Children danced and leapt around, watching their reflections moving this way and that in the surface of the Bean.

And when the last song was sung, the last applause complete, people parted in an orderly manner moving passed the ice skating rink and their other fellow patrons, still warmed by the congeniality of the singing and community, not to mention the hot beverages, experienced all in the name of the holidays upon us.

Here's to hoping that your holidays had a moment of calm, clarity and serenity that will last you throughout the coming year.

Happy New Year All!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Gingerbread Brownies (recipe)

To get into the season, I decided to make gingerbread inspired desserts. My first item was a gingerbread brownie recipe that I came across. It is quite easy and not a whole lot of mess. I should also mention it is more of a cake brownie than a fudge brownie.


1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder (Droste Cocoa is my favorite)
1 to 1 1/2 tps ground ginger (depending on how sharp you prefer it)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground clove
12 tbsp butter, unsalted (melted and cooled)
1/2 cups molasses
1/4 cups milk
1 egg
1 1/2 tps baking soda and 1/4 cup of boiling water
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips


Butter (or oil) and flour a 9 x13 pan and preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, both sugars, salt, cocoa powder, and spices. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, mix together the butter, molasses, milk and egg. Once well mixed, add this to the dry ingredients. Combine until all the dry is mixed in. Then add the boiling water/baking soda mixture to the batter. Again, mix until well combined. Add the chocolate chips.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until your toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool and then cut into pieces.

(the original recipe can be found here, but I tweaked it a bit to reduce the ginger and egg content).